The Trigo Canyon Trail is a 3.7 mile trail that starts from the John F. Kennedy Campground and ends at the Manzano Crest Trail.
Trail Condition: Good to Poor
From the campground, the trail immediately enters the Manzano Mountains Wilderness. The trail starts off very wide at the bottom of the canyon, close to the creek. The trail here is easy to follow and climbs gently for the first 1.5 miles.
The trail begins to climb more steeply as the canyon narrows and some impressive rock formations emerge. Because the trail stays so close to the creek and crosses it frequently, in places the crossings can be obscured by the vegetation, but have confidence that the trail does not leave the creek.
Around 2.5 miles, the canyon walls grow higher and the canyon floor becomes significantly more shaded due both to tree cover and the taller walls. This is the beginning of a series of small waterfalls, an unusual sight for central New Mexico.
There is a significant amount of debris in this confluence area that briefly obscures the trail, but as long as you say right, you will be able to pick it up again.Shortly after the first waterfall, the canyon forks. The trail goes to the right, but there is an impressive waterfall to the left that is worth the short detour.
The right fork quickly dead ends at another waterfall, but the trail switchbacks steeply up to the left. After a short climb, the trail goes over a small saddle and contours above the canyon below, following the left fork of the canyon. There are some good views to the west, downstream above Trigo Canyon.
Eventually, the trail rejoins the stream in some pleasant ponderosa forest. The trail continues to follow the stream bed, which is much wider and shallower than it had been before climbing up and out of the canyon.
After about 1/2 mile from the point that the trail rejoins the stream, the trail passes Log Spring, the source point of the stream. From here to the ridge, the stream runs intermittently.
Also, around this point, the trail enters the area burned from the 2008 Trigo Fire. There has been regrowth in the area, but unfortunately little to no trail maintenance has taken place since the fire.
From this point on, the path is choked with downed trees and prickly bushes that have replaced the old growth forest. For anyone not up for this slog, this makes for a great turn around point and makes for additional time to enjoy the waterfalls.
But for the intrepid hiker hell-bent on making the ridge, continue to follow the creek upstream through the burn area, slowly picking your way. Be careful of your footing, and if it is windy, watch out for falling trees.
The final 1/4 mile to the ridge and the Manzano Crest Trail – Trail #170 is in a wide bowl. Because there is no longer any tree cover, the ridge is visible for this entire last push, which also makes it slightly easier to choose a good route. Still this stretch is slow going, so be patient as you make the final push.
To read more about the Trigo Canyon Trail, see my trip report from Trigo Canyon.